Hundreds of bills to be heard by state lawmakers this week

Monitor staff
Published: 1/13/2020 7:24:11 PM
Modified: 1/13/2020 7:23:25 PM

Lawmakers are facing their first week of hearings this week – and they’re making it count. Hundreds of new bills will be heard over three days this week, as committees rev back into gear.

Expect packed hearing rooms, long waits, and in some cases, emotional testimony. Here’s a peek at what’s in store.

Anti-flag-burning amendment

On Thursday, the Senate Election Law committee will hold a hearing for a constitutional amendment: CACR 19, which would make illegal the burning of the American flag.

More specifically, the bill would create Article 40 to Part I of the state constitution: “No person shall burn an American flag except as a respectful means of disposing of a worn or damaged flag.” That article would follow Article 39, which requires a referendum to change the makeup of a town.

The amendment has plenty of support, including six Republican senators and one Democrat – Sen. Jon Morgan of Brentwood. But if it clears the necessary three-fifths majorities in the House and Senate and passes a statewide referendum, it could still face uncertainty.

In the 1989 case of Texas v Johnson, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated 48 states’ anti-flag desecration laws, ruling that the burning of the flag is protected free speech.

Hearing: 10 a.m. Thursday, Senate Election Law, LOB Room 102

Gender checks for school athletes

In the latest in an ongoing, bitter fight over rights for transgender and non-binary students, some lawmakers are opening a new front: Sports teams.

House Bill 1251 stipulates that female sports teams in middle schools or high schools be only available for those born biologically female and some students may be required to produce a doctor’s note indicating that they are biologically female.

That doctor’s note would require an examination of the student’s “internal and external reproductive anatomy”; “the student’s naturally occurring level of testosterone”; or “an analysis of the student’s chromosomes.”

Supporters are expected to argue that the law eliminates unfair advantages for transgender students with higher levels of testosterone. Opponents say the bill would be unconstitutional and at odds with a law passed year mandating gender identity nondiscrimination protections in New Hampshire schools.

Hearing: 10 a.m. Thursday, Senate Election Law, LOB Room 102

Tax credit for housing

As lawmakers attempt to address New Hampshire’s housing affordability crisis, Sen. Jeb Bradley is proposing one approach: tax incentives.

Senate Bill 475 would allow municipalities to create a property tax credit for densely-built workforce housing. Housing developments with at least five residential units per acre could qualify from exemptions to state and local education property tax – in towns that participate.

Hearing: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Senate Ways and Means, State House Room 100

Compensation for college athletes

Whether college athletes should be compensated or be limited to their scholarships has been a burning national debate for years. And this legislative session, it’s a debate that will come to Concord.

House Bill 1505, introduced by Dartmouth College student Garrett Muscatel, a Hanover Democrat, would prohibit any post-secondary institution in New Hampshire from preventing students from earning compensation.

The bill, which would apply to all universities and colleges in the University System of New Hampshire, as well as private colleges like Dartmouth and Colby Sawyer, is accompanied by a preamble that says it would “ensure college athletes have equal rights and economic freedoms” and dissuade the “disproportionate negative impact that economic and legal restrictions have on African American and female college athletes.”

Hearing: 10 a.m. Wednesday, House Education, LOB Room 207

Housing discrimination against pet owners

Anyone trying to find an apartment with a dog knows the ordeal: Landlords are finicky, and even sellers can see the pets as a dealbreaker.

Rep. Ellen Read, a Manchester Democrat wants to change that. House Bill 1391 would make any discrimination from sellers, landlords or leasers of property against pet owners illegal. That would include a refusal to rent or sell, any eviction or harassment based on that ownership, and even the sending of a written or oral inquiry for prospective tenants and buyers.

“Living with animals has a long historical pedigree and is found in virtually every culture in history and across continents,” the bill states in its preamble.

Hearing: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Senate Education Committee, LOB Room 103

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